A youth with a shock of red hair sat on a cracker box and pecked at the ivories. “Home Ain’t Nothing Like This” was thrummed from the rusting wires with true vaudeville dash and syncopation. “Bill Bailey,” “Good Old Summer Time,” “Dixie” and “In Toyland” followed. Three young men with handkerchiefs wrapped about their throats in lieu of collars stood near the pianist and with him lifted up their voices in melody. The harmony was execrable, the time without excuse, but the songs ran through the trees of the Panhandle, and the crows, forgetting their misery for a time, joined the strange chorus.
The people had their tales of comedy, one being that on the morning of the fire a richly dressed woman who lived in one of the aristocratic Sutter Street apartments came hurrying down the street, faultlessly gowned as to silks and sables, save that one dainty foot was shod with a high-heeled French slipper and the other was incased in a laborer’s brogan. They say that as she walked she careened like a bark-rigged ship before a typhoon.
An hour spent behind the counter of the food supply depot in the park tennis court yielded rich reward to the seeker after the outlandish. The tennis court was piled high with the plunder of several grocery stores and the cargoes of many relief cars. A square cut in the wire screen permitted of the insertion of a counter, behind which stood members of the militia acting as food dispensers. Before the improvised window passed the line of refugees, a line which stretched back fully 300 yards to Speedway track.
“I want a can of condensed cream, so I can feed my baby and my dog,” said a large, florid-faced woman in a gaudy kimono, “and I don’t care for crackers, but you can throw in some potted chicken if you have it.”
“What’s in that bottle over there?” queried the next applicant. “Tomato ketchup? Well, of all the luck! Say, young man, just give me three.”
A little gray-haired woman in an India shawl peered timorously through the window. “Just a little bit of anything you may have handy, please,” she whispered, and she cast a careful eye about to see of any of her neighbors had recognized her standing there in the “bread line.”
“Yesterday, at the Western Union office,” says one writer, “I saw a woman drive up in a large motor car and beg that the telegram on which a boy had asked a delivery fee of twenty-five cents be handed to her. She said she had not a penny and did not know when she would have any money, but that as soon as she had any she would pay for the message. It was given to her, and the manager told me that there were hundreds of similar cases.”
Many weddings resulted from the disaster. Women driven out of their homes and left destitute, appealed to the men to whom they were engaged, and immediate marriages took place. After the first day of the disaster an increase in the marriage licenses issued was noticed by County Clerk Cook. This increase grew until seven marriage licenses were issued in an hour.